September 26 - April 24, 2021
From Art League Houston:
“Obras, an exhibition of work by Artist Celia Álvarez Muñoz, the ALH 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts recipient. Obras explores the dynamic range of work created by Álvarez Muñoz throughout her career, emphasizing her innovative transitions between photographic media, installations-based work, sculpture, and book art. A catalogue focusing on the artist’s career published by Art League Houston is featured in conjunction with this exhibition (design and layout by Lindsay Starr Design). The catalogue includes full color images and a critical essay by Roberto Tejada, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, University of Houston, Houston, Texas.
Born in El Paso, Texas in 1937, Álvarez Muñoz is a conceptual multimedia artist currently living and working in Arlington, Texas. She is recognized internationally for her diverse and multifaceted body of work including artist books, photography, painting, written text, installation and public art. Álvarez Muñoz states that the mission driving her artistic practice has always been one of an “Artivist”: an artist and activist. This ideology and philosophy underscores much of her career and work. As a child, her father was deployed to Alaska and Germany, leaving Álvarez Muñoz in the care of her mother, aunt and maternal grandmother in El Paso. Her childhood experiences and youth living in the borderlands inspired much of her later creative practice, referencing dichotomous cultures, values and language complexities found along the U.S.-Mexico border, along with the physical, psychological and socio-political issues of life along the border zone. In college she studied art of all levels, receiving her BA in Art from Texas Western University (now University of Texas, El Paso), and started a career in teaching art to children upon graduation. She also worked in advertising as a fashion illustrator prior to graduating from college. Álvarez Muñoz, her husband, and their two small children relocated throughout the U.S. several times before finally moving to Arlington.
Álvarez Muñoz enrolled in graduate school at North Texas State University (now University of North Texas, Denton) in 1977, where she studied with known Texas artists Vernon Fisher and Al Souza. During her studies, she began work on her well-known Enlightenment series, a multimedia, conceptual visual book and language project including a total of ten works she created over a span of about five years. Enlightenment visually portrays the confusing and often erroneous misunderstandings caused by language barriers, cognitive development, and language acquisition. Throughout the series, the artist plays with text, puns, and double meanings she experienced growing up along the Mexican border. The dominant themes of her bilingual and bicultural heritage, as well as an emphasis on education and educational principles (referencing her work as a teacher throughout much of her career), are seen throughout the Enlightenment project, as well as her oeuvre, with later photographs and works addressing these still current and poignant experiences. Álvarez Muñoz states her ongoing interest in and examination of the photo and image making process as a significant drive for her work – utilizing different camera formats, including 35 mm, 4×5, 8×10, and digital media. She is interested in the exploration of tools and how the camera “sees” versus how the eye “sees” (or assumes to see), which often challenges preconceived assumptions.
Álvarez Muñoz recalls numerous moments of both a personal and historical importance as key landmarks in her practice and development as an artist: “Since my days of teaching art at all levels, preschool to university, as well as the creation and work as an artist on commissioned residencies and public art, the goal has always been to develop validation or protest to our cultural evolution as a citizen of a community, city, state, country, or the world. In doing so, it has given more meaning to the process of artmaking. My teaching perspective gave rise to developing projects for commissions. The following are key historical and personal moments that have impacted and continue to influence my career:
A dramatic demographic shift in El Paso with the settlement of The Chamizal Treaty.
Installations/collaborations with retirement communities remembering Snugg Harbor in New York’s Staten Island, and Cerveceria Carta Blanca in Monterrey, Mexico.
An airport in Phoenix, Arizona’s connection to WW II.
Protest to unfair women’s labor practice in the manufacturing industry in the USA and Manchester, England.
Roswell, New Mexico’s attitude towards its “aliens.”
A coming-out GBL Texas community’s move to San Francisco, California.
San Antonio’s convention center expansion hinge honoring regional music.
San Antonio River links a park to the history and function of its river.
San Antonio’s main plaza reveals a multitude of its stories.
A protest installation with SMU/West Dallas due to the Calatrava Bridge and the gentrification in the once segregated Hispanic demographic.
A protest to the feminicides in Mexico’s Cuidad Juárez NAFTA maquiladoras.
An Austin, Texas library’s acknowledgement to its power and water treatment plants.
Participation in “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985” at The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California (2017), followed by travel to The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, and Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (2018).
My mission in art making has always been one of an Artivist – I am an artist and an activist.”
These experiences and accomplishments as an Artivist have left an indelible impact on Álvarez Muñoz’s laudable and prolific career, which is recognized by numerous awards and achievements. In 1995, she received the Honors Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts from the Women’s Caucus for Art. Prior to this award, Álvarez Muñoz received two National Endowment for the Arts grants for both Photography and New Genres (1988 and 1991); she is also the recipient of the CAA Committee on Women in the Arts Recognition Award, and the Outstanding Centennial Alumnus award by the University of North Texas College of Arts and Sciences. In 2009, Roberto Tejada (the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor at the University of Houston) published a book on Álvarez Muñoz and her work (Celia Álvarez Muñoz, Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).
Álvarez Muñoz’s work has been featured in numerous national and international solo and group exhibitions of note, including: University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas (1983, solo); Whitney Biennial, New York, New York (1991); Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, California (1991, solo); Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas, Texas (1991); Capp Street Project, San Francisco, California (1994); University of Texas at Arlington (2002); Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, Texas (2012); and the exhibition and accompanying catalogue, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-85, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California (2017; traveled to the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, followed by the Pinacoteca de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, 2018), among others. She is represented in numerous public and private collections throughout the states, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Houston, Texas.
Major funding for the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts exhibition and catalogue was generously provided by the Eleanor & Frank Freed Foundation, the South Texas Charitable Foundation, Jacques Louis Vidal Charitable Fund, Sharon & Gus Kopriva, Gilberto Cardenas & Dolores García, and Delilah Montoya.”
Artist talk: November 7, 2020 | 2–3 pm
1953 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, 77006 TX
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